Search Tips


Search With Keywords

Start your iStock search by typing a keyword into the search bar at the top of any page of our site. A keyword is any word you could use to describe the kind of image you're looking for. You can also use the drop-down menu on the right side of the search bar to specify the file type you're looking for.


Narrowing Your Results

Narrow by Keyword

On the left side of the search results page there is a search box where you can add new keywords to narrow down your search. The more keywords you add the more specific your results will be. All of your entered search terms will appear at the top of the left-hand column. If you'd like to remove a keyword, simply click next to it.


Boolean Search

Your search can also be refined using the following:

  • Separate multiple keywords with "AND" so only files that match all of your search terms appear. (e.g., Dog AND Ball will show results that include dogs and balls.)
  • Use quotes (") around several terms to search for a phrase or sentence. (e.g, "Dog playing with a ball" will show results that have the phrase "Dog playing with a ball" in the title or description.)
  • Use "OR" to expand your results, showing files that match either term. (e.g., Dog OR Ball will show results that have either a dog or ball.)
  • Use "NOT" to exclude results that match a keyword. (e.g., Dog NOT Ball will show results that match dog, but eliminate those that match ball.)
  • These tips can be combined for very specific searches. (e.g., "Dog playing" NOT Ball will show results of dogs playing without ball.)

Narrow by File Type

If you'd like to limit your results to just photos, illustrations, video, audio or Flash, check the box that corresponds with the file type.


Sorting Your Results

Above your search results is a drop-down menu called “Sort by”. By clicking on it you can re-order your results by:

  • Best match
  • Age
  • Number of downloads
  • Contributor name
  • Rating
  • Size
  • Title

Number of Results Per Page

You can use the “Files per page” drop-down, located above your search results, to increase or decrease the number of results you see on each page from 20 to 200.


Keyword Tips

Our database of keywords uses a controlled vocabulary. Since many words have different meanings you may sometimes be asked to clarify ambiguous search terms (e.g., “orange” the color versus “orange” the fruit). Keywords that have multiple meanings are marked with . If you click on the icon, you can choose your intended meaning from the options available.


Search by Contributor

If there's a particular iStock artist you're fond of you can get to their entire portfolio directly from the main search box. Simply type the first few letters of their iStock membername and you'll see a list of potential matches that include contributors.


Search By Collection

By default your search results will be generated from all of our collections. If you'd like to limit your search to content from our Vetta Collection, select it from the “Collections” area on the left-hand side of the page.


Search by Price Range

By default your search results will contain files from every price range. If you'd like to narrow your results by price, you can select your preferred price range by adjusting the "Price Range" section on the left-hand side of the page.

This "Price Range" filter is a slider that lets you either select a specific price level or set a range of price levels that you'd like to search within.

Search by Price Range

Search by License Type

In addition to our standard Creative imagery, iStock also offers images under an Editorial Use Only license. Files for Editorial Use Only cannot be used for any commercial purposes. If you'd like to limit your search to strictly Creative or Editorial content, select those options from the “License Type” area on the left-hand side of the page.

Search by License Type

Search Photo & Illustration by Shape, Color, CopySpace™ or Size

If you're looking for an image of a specific size, shape or color scheme, use the “Photo & Illustration Filters” located on the left-hand side of the search results page. The available filters are:

  • Shape - Specify whether you're looking for a portrait, landscape or square image.
  • Color - If you're looking for an image that falls within a certain color profile, select your color from the color picker and click "Apply".
    Search by Color
  • CopySpace™ - You can search for images that have empty space for copy exactly where you want it by highlighting the 3x3 CopySpace™ grid where your text will appear and clicking "Apply".
    Search by CopySpace™
  • Image Size - If you're looking for large, high-resolution files, choose XL, XXL or XXXL here. There is no option for small, medium or large files, as all images on iStock come in those sizes.

Show/Hide File Details

At the bottom of the search results page is a drop-down called “Display Settings.” Here you can choose what information is displayed on the search results page. Options include image titles, contributor name, number of downloads and file number. You can also enable or disable the loupe feature, which displays a larger version of any image you hover over with your mouse.


Additional Filters

On the left-hand side of the search results page there is a section called “More attributes”. Here you can refine your results based on:

  • People - Images or videos that contain people.
  • No People - Images or videos that don't contain people.
  • Exclusive - File was provided by an iStock Exclusive Artist.

Search by Category

The entire iStock library is divided into categories. These are common themes that group files and include things like Animals, Business and Lifestyle. You can filter your results by clicking on the category you want near the bottom, left-hand side of the search results page. Some offer sub-categories to help you narrow your results further.


Advanced Audio Search

When searching for audio, you can refine your results in the “Audio Filters” section on the left-hand side of the page. Here you can specify the category, or level of complexity (Basic, Moderate, Detailed, Complex or Elaborate), depending on whether you want lyrical or instrumental audio, the key and/or time signature.


Advanced Video Search

When searching for video, you can refine your results in the “Video filters” section on the left-hand side of the page. Here you can specify the aspect ratio (4:3 or 16:9), file type (PAL, DV or NTSC for 4:3 videos) or HD resolution (720 or 1080).


Search by File Number

If you know the file number of the image, video or audio clip you'd like to purchase, you can enter it into the search box and be taken directly to the close-up page for that file.


Search Results Are Zero

If your search has yielded zero results, it most likely means you're being too specific (or you're searching for something really unusual). Try removing keywords from your search, or changing some of your refinements to generate more matches.


Search a Lightbox

You can search the contents of a lightbox by using the search box on the left-hand side of the page within that lightbox. To search public lightboxes, go to your lightbox page and use the “Search Public Lightboxes” field near the top, right side of the page.

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